Vellum 2.0 review
Vellum 2.0, create beautiful books.
If you’re an indie author looking to self publish your own books, I think you owe it to yourself to download and try out Vellum 2.0. It just might become your new favorite tool in your writer’s toolbox. First, what is Vellum 2.0? Vellum is a WYSIWYG interior formatter for ebooks and now print books. It allows you to import your finished manuscript and style it using built in themes that can be used as they are, or mixed and matched, all in real time. If you make an edit to your manuscript, or change a chapter title, you see the revision automatically updated in the preview window using the currently selected template. I’ll go into more detail on how it all works later, but first I’ll explain why I decided to use Vellum.
Like many of you (I suspect), I use Scrivener to organize my writing and to craft my manuscript, and for those tasks, there are no finer software choices available (in my opinion). However, when it comes time to compile in Scrivener and export my finished manuscript for ebook and print versions, I find the software to be overly complicated. I have also never been completely pleased with the end result. Now, that may very well be user error, and I expect that it is, but I don’t really care. I prefer to spend my time researching and writing, not banging my head against the desk because I can’t get the headers to look right, or figure out how to use drop caps, or some other such arcane wizardry. I want a piece of software that allows me to import my manuscript, make some simple visual selections, and then push a button to generate each and every format I need. And that’s precisely what Vellum 2.0 does. Let’s take a look at the software’s features, and then I’ll explain why I think it’s worth the price (even though some of you may think it’s ridiculously expensive).
The first thing you will see when you start Vellum 2.0 is the splash screen. As you can see, I’ve already imported my manuscript and created a Vellum project. If I hadn’t, I could browse to open an existing project, or import a word file. Please be aware that Vellum 2.0 requires that your document be in docx format. Now before you leave in a huff, you should know that nearly all word processing software can export or compile to this format. Pages, Scrivener, and Ulysses are all capable of creating docx files, and I suspect there are many other wonderful word processors that are also capable of this feat.
My manuscript was already in docx because I had already compiled it in that format from Scrivener to prepare it for a print edition previously. Because I had already done this, my manuscript imported flawlessly into Vellum, but don’t worry if your manuscript is in less than stellar shape. Vellum has put together a handy tutorial to show you how to best prepare your manuscript for importing into Vellum. You can find it here:
The gist of it is that you should use page breaks before chapter titles, standard element titles like Prologue or Acknowledgments, and chapter titles that begin with the word chapter or a number. My manuscript had page breaks, and the chapter titles had the word chapter in them, and my section breaks used three asterisks.
I should note that the software automatically creates the table of contents for you. On my clean manuscript it did it perfectly, but if you need to change some of your chapters around after importing, don’t worry, Vellum will update the TOC.
I tested the software out briefly by bringing in a manuscript that wasn’t so clean, and it still did a pretty impressive job of knowing where the chapter and scene breaks were supposed to be. The nice thing is that anything that it categorizes incorrectly can be recategorized within the software which will give it the proper style for that type. I found it to be very easy to select sections and change their category, and even to move chapters around. The beauty of it is that you can see how the changes affect your manuscript in the live preview window.
So once you get your manuscript imported and the chapters organized the way you want, the next step is to add any additional elements that weren’t already part of your manuscript. You can add things like a title page, a copyright page, dedication, acknowledgments, epigraphs, about the author page, and even prologues (perish the thought).
Once you have all of that out of the way, you can get to the fun stuff. Choosing your book's interior formatting style. There are eight beautifully crafted styles built into the software. I know what you’re thinking, only eight, lame. But before you thumb your nose at me, let me enlighten you. There are indeed only eight styles built in, but you can mix and match any of the elements from any of the styles you desire. So if you like the heading style from one theme and the ornamental break in another, you’re perfectly free to mash them together. So feel free to play around with all of the options, and don’t worry, you can always revert back to the original style if your new creation looks a little bit like Frankenstein’s monster.
Once you’ve selected the perfect style for your manuscript, it’s time to see how it looks on all of the platforms you intend to export to. See the graphic below for all of the available platforms. You just click on the little reader icon and select a device, such as, Kindle Fire, Paperwhite, iPad, iPhone, Nook Simple Touch, Kobo Glo, Android Tablet, or even print. You can page through your document to see what the headings look like, how your drop caps look, and even those wonderful ornamental breaks. Vellum even allows you to access each device's settings, so you can chose the font, font size, background/text color, or any other available options on that particular platform.
When you finally get everything just how you want it, you can click the generate button, and Vellum will bring up a box for you to confirm your print size, and all of the platforms you wish to publish to. It will also ask you to select a folder to store those exports. I’m pretty sure that there is a place in the settings for store links so that once you have actually published to one of the online stores, you can make changes to your manuscript, such as updating front and back matter, and then publish the changes with a couple of clicks. I haven’t actually tried out this functionality yet, because I’m waiting until I’m ready to publish the print edition of my first book, and when I have my second book ready to publish in ebook format. I’ll be sure and post a follow up to this review detailing how that process went. If it works as fluidly as the rest of the software, I think I’m really going to like it.
<This is the first box that appears when you click on the generate button.
Now let’s talk about the price, and why I think it’s worth the $250 price tag (and the cost of a Mac if you don’t have one…because yes, it only runs on a Mac). I’m aware that most new writers looking to go the self publishing route don’t have wads of cash to fling at every new thing that comes along, but if you are serious about producing a book that people will actually purchase, you need at least two things (besides solid writing), an attractive cover, and interior formatting that is indistinguishable from the big publishing houses. You could certainly do these things yourself if you have the skills, but even if you do, how much is your time worth? Think about how long it would take you to format your book just the way you want it using Scrivener or Word. If you’re like me, it’s too long. Your skills may be more finely honed than mine, or perhaps you have infinite amounts of patience, but wouldn’t your time be better spent writing that next book?
I’ve done some research (by research I mean a few Google searches) on interior book formatting, and from what I’ve seen it ranges from somewhere between $50 to $500 to get results that are no better, and possibly not even as good as Vellum’s. Now even if you use $50 as your baseline for formatting, once you've published five books, the software would have already paid for itself. And if you don’t ever plan to publish anything but ebooks you can save yourself $50 by buying the ebook only edition.
For me it was an easy decision. I plan to publish more than five books, and I really like the ease with which I can format my books, as well as the end product that Vellum gives me. At the very least I think you should download the software (if you have a Mac), and test it out. It will let you do everything except generate the final output. And if you decide you love it as much as I do (probably not even possible…I love it lots), you can purchase your license from within the software.
Here are the pricing tiers and the system requirements:
Vellum Press (Create Unlimited Ebooks + Paperbacks) $249.99
Vellum Ebooks (Create Unlimited Ebooks) $199.00
If you have individual credits, you can still use them in Vellum 2.0, but they no longer offer new individual credits for sale.
You can upgrade to Vellum 2.0 from previous versions.
Vellum requires a Mac running one of these versions of macOS:
macOS El Capitan (10.11)
macOS Sierra (10.12)
There are no specific processor, graphics, or memory requirements. I’m currently running a 2014 Mac Mini with a 2.6 GHz Intel Core i5, 16 GB RAM, and Intel Iris graphics, but I would imagine it would run on a much less powerful system without any problems.
The oldest Macs that can run macOS Sierra are iMac (late 2009 and later), Mac mini (2010 and later), Mac Pro (2010 and later), MacBook (Late 2009 and later), MacBook Air (2010 and later), and MacBook Pro (2010 and later). I’m fairly certain that if your Mac will run El Capitan or Sierra, it will be perfectly capable of running Vellum 2.0.
Vellum 2.0 Help
Here’s a gallery of the different styles.
I hope you found this review helpful. If I left anything out, or if you have any questions, please let me know. I'm always happy to share the little knowledge I have with my fellow Indies :)